News / Health

Malawi Sex Initiation Puts Girls at Risk for HIV

FILE - A young girl carries her sister through a cornfield in Masongo village outside Lilongwe, Malawi, May 13, 2008.
FILE - A young girl carries her sister through a cornfield in Masongo village outside Lilongwe, Malawi, May 13, 2008.
Lameck Masina

In Malawi, almost a third of new HIV cases occur in women under the age of 30, in part because of traditional coming-of-age ceremonies that introduce young girls to sex, according to AIDS activists.

Malawi’s Demographic and Health Survey shows that 20 percent of young girls in the southern African country become sexually active before age 13. Many of them do so with limited knowledge of safe sex.

People working to combat HIV/AIDS infection blame cultural and traditional practices in which girls are sent to special initiation camps. There, the girls sometimes are encouraged to have sex to transition into adulthood.

The practice is rampant in Malawi’s southern district of Mangochi, said Chief Chowe, a senior traditional leader. He added that it exposes girls to high risk of HIV infection because they’re usually partnered with older men who sleep with several girls in the camp.

The Girls Empowerment Network (GENET), a nonprofit organization in Malawi, works to discourage girls from engaging in sex at a young age. The traditional practice poses a danger of girls becoming addicted to sex, communications adviser Joyce Mkandawire said.

“Once the girls are introduced to the first sexual encounter, they go back and do it on their own because they had done it during the initiation camp,” Mkandawire explained.

Many girls become pregnant and drop out of school, she said.

Chowe and Mkandawire said several interventions are addressing the problems associated with early sex among girls.

Chowe said he has been teaching initiation camp counselors about the dangers of encouraging the girls to have early sexual intercourse. With other district leaders, he has developed by-laws that aim to curb sexual activity among girls.

“As traditional leaders in Mangochi, we have designed by-laws which require all school-going age groups should go to school and if they get pregnant, we have imposed a fine on the culprits,” Chowe said. “A parent is asked to pay a goat if his or her girl child has been impregnated while in school.” 

Mkandawire said her organization is pushing to modify the initiation camps’ syllabus. “Actually we would like to replace initiation ceremonies with summer camps where girls are told to behave like girls and encourage them to stay in school and not introduce them into womanhood,” she said.

The Malawi government’s coordinating arm for HIV activities, the National AIDS Commission, says it supports several initiatives aimed at transforming traditional practices that lead to HIV infection among girls.

“We have educational projects where we work with traditional leaders, social leaders and opinion makers in the community to ensure that harmful cultural practices are no longer practiced,” said Linje Manyozo, a commission specialist in social and behavioral change intervention.

The government is implementing a five-year national HIV/AIDS strategy it launched in 2012.

The strategy calls for teaching girls life skills so they understand their rights and become empowered.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Festus from: Asaba
July 21, 2014 6:34 PM
This shows the level of backwordness of the people in this parth of the world. They need finacial suport to boost their educational sector.


by: Anne Cross from: USA
July 19, 2014 12:39 PM
Can you identify the source of your statement that 20 percent of young girls become sexually active before age 13? The post implies that it is from the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey, yet the 2010 survey shows that only 12% of girls aged 15-19 said they had sex before they were 15.


by: Ranger Dan Parsons from: Michigan
July 19, 2014 10:32 AM
Sounds like a made up "Tradition" created to benefit only promiscuous, disease infested, pedophiles. I wonder what lies and fake truths these poor girls are told by these predators to get them to "Comply". There are sleazy pigs that prey on women worldwide.


by: Robert Singleton
July 18, 2014 6:57 PM
Lameck Masina, please stop using the passive voice. It moves the focus from the criminals onto their victims. It allows criminals to get away with all sorts of heinous atrocities unnoticed. Using the passive voice is the exact verbal equivalent of turning the camera away from the perpetrator of a crime and onto the victim while filming.

You said, "...girls are sent to special initiation camps. There, the girls sometimes are encouraged to have sex to transition into adulthood...

Who sends the girls to these camps? Who encourages them to have sex? Who equates adulthood with sexual activity?

The practice is rampant in Malawi’s southern district of Mangochi, said Chief Chowe, a senior traditional leader. He added that it exposes girls to high risk of HIV infection because they’re usually partnered with older men who sleep with several girls in the camp." Who partners these girls with older men? Chief Chowe?

As a senior chief traditional leader, Chief Chowe is largely to blame for this problem. He is aware of the risks, and therefore he should be fighting to stop this tradition. It sounds like a pedophile's paradise. This initiation practice does not appear to benefit the girls at all. What's in it for them?

Who practices these harmful "cultural" practices? Who are the "culprits" in this situation? The impregnators!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid